Identifying historical policy regimes in the Canadian and Australian communications industries using a model of path dependent, punctuated equilibrium

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Comparative policy analyses can be enriched by systematically examining temporal sequences over long periods of time. Yet the literature provides little guidance on operationalizing a systematic approach to trace how “history matters”. In this article, we introduce a model of path dependent, punctuated equilibrium to demonstrate how technological and institutional legacies restrict the policy options available for deploying new communications technologies in Canada and Australia. The research adopts a long-term view of the respective communications industries beginning with the policy choices made from the time of the telegraph and the resulting policy paradigms that continue to influence policy choices made in the present. We find that the consistency of these approaches can be explained by the concepts of technological momentum and policy regimes that reinforce the original policy rationale adopted to deploy the telegraph. Many other types of networked infrastructure exhibit similar characteristics of path dependent, punctuated equilibrium in that it is difficult to undo the legacies, including the sunk-costs, interests, and habits that form around the use of the respective networks and their related institutions. We posit that the model presented here will prove useful in tracing networked infrastructure policies over time, particularly in comparing cross-national policy approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalPolicy Studies
Early online date20 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2019


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